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For a long time, one of the DMs in my usual group has claimed that Knowledge (Local) has to be tied to a specific region. For example, you could take Knowledge (Restov). So, we've always just played under that assumption.

The rules, however, don't seem to make that obvious. In fact, they don't seem to suggest that idea at all.

From the PRD article on Knowledge:

Knowledge (Int; Trained Only)

You are educated in a field of study and can answer both simple and complex questions. Like the Craft, Perform, and Profession skills, Knowledge actually encompasses a number of different specialties. Below are listed typical fields of study.

(ed: skipping most of them)

  • Local (legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids)

Check: Answering a question within your field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).

Then there's a DC table which includes the following entries for Knowledge (Local):

  • Know local laws, rulers, and popular locations - DC 10
  • Know a common rumor or local traiditon - DC 15
  • Know hidden organizations, rulers, and locations - DC 20

It seems like Knowledge (Local) covers all (legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids), just as Knowledge (History) covers all (wars, colonies, migrations, founding of cities) and Knowledge (Nobility) covers all (lineages, heraldry, personalities, royalty).

So, is Knowledge (Local) tied to a specific region, or does it cover a broader scope like the other knowledges?

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I don't have enough input to really weigh in on this, but I'd argue that a simple -5 to +5 modifier based on familiarity makes sense. When you're in your hometown, you're going to have the +5 for knowing who the local Mumblety Peg champion is. In your home region, you've got a +2 for remembering that the region you're in has a law about open carry of crossbows. So on and so forth until really foreign lands, you're facing penalties. –  Sean Duggan Feb 20 at 14:40
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I've voted for my favorite answer, but I'd just like to add that "what makes sense" doesn't necessarily line up with gameplay balance. Knowledge skills are assumed to be of somewhat low importance in D&D games, so further subdivision would make them even less worthwhile, even if it makes more sense. If having more specific Knowledge skills adds to your game, go for it. –  Dane Feb 20 at 22:02
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This confusion is an inheritance from D&D - particularly the Forgotten Realms. Region-based skills had particular rules in that campaign setting.

I believe it was most clearly explained in the 3.0 Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (Pages 8-9):

Character Region

The Player's Handbook only requires you to choose a race and a class, but the FORGOTTEN REALMS campaign setting also gives you the ability to further define your character by choosing a region in which your character grew up (or at least gained most of her early experience). Your native region helps define your character as part of the world of Toril and give you additional choices for which feats and equipment you can have.

[Cut]

Region-based skills

A character's region may also affect his or her list of skills. In particular, the Knowledge skill can be divided into a number of specific regional subcategories - for instance, instead of Knowledge(history), a character might have Knowledge (Sembian history). As a general rule, characters have region-based Knowledge skills that pertain to the region where they grew up.

[Cut]

Craft, Perform and Profession skills may also be region-based. The Dungeon Master has the final say on whether other region-based skills are allowed in the campaign.

The later (3.5) Player's Guide to Faerûn contained similar rulings.

Note that this was not true in general for D&D 3.0 or 3.5 (and neither have I encountered similar rules in the supplements defining other campaign settings). The general Knowledge rules were rather scant, the following being the entirety of the Knowledge skill description from the 3.0 SRD:

Knowledge (INT; TRAINED ONLY)

Check: Answering a question within the character's field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).

Retry: No. The check represents what the character knows, and thinking about a topic a second time doesn't let the character know something the character never learned in the first place.

Special: An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, a character only knows common knowledge.

The 3.5 text is analogous to the later PF text. Further, monsters have been published that only reference a generic Knowledge (local) skill (example: The 3.0 Leshay), with no defined subcategory.

TL;DR version: Your DM is thinking of an old Forgotten Realms specific rule.

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The way I see knowledge (local) working, I consider it to be more of an 'ability to collect and remember information', rather than something you already knew all along. Instead of treating a character with a high local knowledge skill as some sort of clairvoyant know-it-all, I prefer to look at the character as a 'tourist'.

Whenever there is downtime they visit the local tavern, chat with innkeepers, gossip with the woman on the corner selling fish, and afterwards they remember a lot of the information they have overheard in this way.

This also makes it a lot less odd that a great roll followed by a botched roll could result in a character knowing the secret entrance to the fabled treasure of Aer, but doesn't know that you are not allowed to shake somebody's hand in Aer; it is simply something he hadn't overheard.

TL;DR: Yes, it is a general skill, but it requires some handwaving to make it make sense.

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The problem with this interpretation is that there already is a skill that actually does represent exactly what you describe. In 3.0/3.5, it was called Gather Information, and in Pathfinder it is rolled in to Diplomacy, as an additional use of a diplo check. –  Matthew Najmon Feb 21 at 4:10
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@MatthewNajmon: A Diplomacy check tests a character's success at actively gathering information in this way. A Knowledge (Local) check tests a character's success at previous implicit Diplomacy checks. –  ladenedge Feb 21 at 16:17
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Looking at some Paizo Adventure Paths (specifically: Jade Regent, Wrath of the Righteous), there are NPCs with Knowledge (local) in their skills. If the intention was for that skill to be tied to an area, it would be listed as Knowledge (placename).

Knowledge (placename) certainly makes more sense to me, but it does appear that the intention in the rules is for it to be Knowledge (local) giving "local knowledge of everywhere".

End of the day, of course, it's up to your GM how they want it to work.

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